The animated version of Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved movies in Disney’s catalogue. The songs, voices, acting, and exquisite cinematography pop off the screen and several times over the years when hosting a party I would find myself singing “Be our guest, be our guest…”. That’s how iconic the animated version is, it has ingrained itself in your life. The unfortunate part of this film is that it falls flat at critical times. And falling flat never happened in the original version.
Casting Emma Watson as Belle seemed to be an inspired choice. She has the look, scholastic background, and acting experience to present a wonderful Belle. What she does present is a very good Belle, not great and certainly not a classic Belle. Her voice does not measure up, her acting seems forced at times and without nuance, and she really can’t seem to dance. Belle’s interaction with Lumier and Cogsworth is not as smooth as I would have expected, given Watson’s work in the Harry Potter films with CGI characters.
Dan Stevens is miscast as Beast as well. He is much older than Watson and they don’t seem to have much charisma and chemistry together. During the final dance sequence I never truly believed that they were made for one another. Impressively, Stevens really shines while as the Beast. The motion capture work and layered CGI effects are average at best. But Stevens gets fantastic marks for acting with his eyes and really developing a personality for the Beast.
While the film is good and will appeal the masses very well, the musical numbers seem to be a bit out of sorts. In the original version “Be our Guest” is the most iconic of the film’s songs. The song falls a bit flat and lacks the exuberance of the original. However, more than making up for this is the Lefou and Gaston led “Gaston”. It is infectious and Josh Gad (Lefou) and Luke Evans (Gaston) just sell it. Honestly, I wanted to find a nearby table jump on it and sing and dance.
So here is the problem with bringing a Disney film from animation to live action. Some films will translate well, while some should be left alone. Beauty and the Beast is not a bad film at all, please remember this. But being simply good isn’t good enough. That’s going to be the problem going forward, Disney will settle for good and not classic.
Director Bill Condon has directed a couple of Twilight films in the past. And the perhaps is what permeates this film. Twilight films are awful. And part of the problem is the Director’s choices of shot selection, under developed CGI, and lack of awe-inspiring cinematography. These were strengths in the first film and can be considered weaknesses in this film.
Simply good not great and certainly not a classic.
3 stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.